Johnston Press has revealed its first operating profit increase in seven years following increased investment in its digital platform.

In the publishing company’s results for the 26 weeks ended 29 June 2013, it reported that like-for-like operating profit had increased by 4.3 percent compared with the same period last year.

Its digital revenues were up 13.3 percent in the period, from £10.3 million in 2012 to £11.6 million this year.

“Johnston Press has continued to make good progress during the first half in the implementation of its strategy for growth, completing the relaunch of its print titles and investing further in technology to build its digital platform whilst maintaining a tight control on costs,” said Ashley Highfield, chief executive at the company and a former BBC technology leader.

“It is encouraging to see the benefits of our actions starting to come through, with the group achieving its first like-for-like operating profit increase in seven years.”

The company set out its plans to transform the business into a “digital-first publishing model” at the start of 2012, with the aim of increasing overall audience and achieving greater efficiency.

During last year, with 10 million unique users a month, it became the largest and fastest growing digital regional publisher, adding two million new digital users in 2012.

“In July we exceeded our 2013 year-end target for unique users when we hit 12.5 million for the month. This is up 20 percent on the first half of 2012 and demonstrates that our relaunched websites, with improved look and feel, better navigation, improved social media content and substantially more video, are resonating with our audiences,” the company said.

It plans to complete the rollout of new websites across its smaller titles next month.

Other digital activities Johnston Press has undertaken include offering digital marketing services for SMEs, signing an agreement with online technology and publishing group Brightsolid for the digitisation of its newspaper archive and launching a new online dating platform in partnership with Newsquest.

“Although the economic outlook is not without challenges, momentum has continued into the second half, underpinned by the re-structuring and re-focusing of the business, an increasingly stable advertising market and growth in circulation and digital revenues,” said Highfield.